Garden Blog

Hardneck or Softneck?

There are two different types of garlic hardneck and softneck.

There are two different types of garlic hardneck and softneck.

The ancient Egyptians placed clay models of garlic bulbs in the tomb of Tutankhamen. Garlic was so prized there that it was used as currency.

I like that idea – trading bulbs for bread or beer.

Stories of garlic repelling vampires, warding off the evil eye, and being an aphrodisiac have been around for ages. It’s been used medicinally for just as long.

When garlic is cut or crushed, an enzyme combines with an amino acid to create a new compound called allicin.  This compound is known to kill 23 types of bacteria, including salmonella and staphylococcus.

A different compound is formed when garlic is heated.  This compound can prevent arteries from clogging, and reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels.  Garlic has a blood-thinning quality, which may be helpful in preventing heart attacks and strokes.

Garlic is known to kill 60 types of fungi and yeast, and it contains vitamins C, A, and B. Good for you AND it tastes great too!

Garlic is part of the family Liliaceae and the genus allium, which includes more than 400 varieties including onions and leeks. The most commonly cultivated forms of garlic are softneck “allium sativum” and hardneck “A. ophioscorodon”.

So what’s the difference?

Softneck Garlic

Softneck garlic (allium sativum var. sativum) is the most common type. Almost all supermarket garlic is a softneck variety because it is easier to grow and harvest mechanically and keeps longer than hardneck. Softnecks are recognised by the white papery skin and an abundance of cloves, forming several layers around the central core.
The flexible stalks of softnecks allow them to be braided into decorative plaits to hang and store. Here’s a video to show you how (via Gardenerd). It is a little easier to grow in warm climates.

We carry two varieties:

California Early, ORGANIC – An early-maturing garlic suitable for most climates. Mild, rich garlic flavor without the bite. 12-16 cloves per bulb. A great garlic for the beginning grower.

Susanville – (Cert. Naturally Grown) A softneck artichoke-type garlic with large, pinkish-purple streaked bulbs. A very prolific grower that produces 12-15 cloves per bulb. Rich garlic flavor when roasted and a spicy zing when eaten raw.

Softneck garlic is the most common kind of garlic and can be found in most grocery stores.

California Early Organic Garlic 

Hardneck Garlic

The name ophioscorodon probably originates from the Greek word “ophis” meaning snake. It’s also called seedstem or top setting garlic. In late spring it shoots up a stem or scape, which coils from the top in a snake-like way. On the top of this scape grow a number of bubils.

These are often called flowers although they are not. Cultivated garlic is sterile – the plants are technically clones. If the scape and bubils are left in place, the plant will use energy to grow them that could be better used to grow the bulb. So clip the stem off early.

Hardneck garlic has fewer but larger cloves than softneck. Most people prefer the taste of hardneck. But they don’t store well. Their outer protective bulb wrapper is small or non-existent.

There are three main types of hardneck garlic: rocambole, porcelain and purple stripe. We carry three kinds of hardneck garlic:

German White – (Cert. Naturally Grown) Early-to-mid summer porcelain hardneck variety with a distinctive, moderately spicy flavor. 6-8 plump, easy-to-peel cloves in each 2-2 1/2” wide paper-white bulb. A great roasting variety that stores well into the cold winter months.

Georgia Fire – (Cert. Naturally Grown)  Another porcelain-type that produces large, creamy white, purple-streaked bulbs with rose-colored skin wrapping the cloves. Called a “white hot” garlic by chefs, with a strong, hot, very pleasant flavor. Great for salsa, salads and storage. 4-6 cloves per bulb.

Music – (Certified Naturally Grown) A very cold-hardy, slightly spicy, incredibly flavorful garlic. One of the most popular and easy to grow! Produces 4-6 huge, easy-to-peel cloves per bulb with a shiny-white sheath and pink-tinged clove skins.

If you can’t make up your mind, try our Sampler pack
1/4 lb. each of one hardneck and one softneck variety selected for your region.

In the spring time hardneck garlic produces scabes that are great for making pesto with!

German White Garlic 

Information for this post was drawn from Rodale’s Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, and from


Article Written by: Angie Lavezzo

About the Author: Angie Lavezzo is the former general manager of Sow True Seed. Beyond her professional role at Sow True, Angie's passion for gardening extends into personal hands-on experience, fostering plants and reaping bountiful harvests.